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Debunking the myths of OCD

Post by on Sunday, April 17, 2022

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It's a general misunderstanding that if you prefer to organise your belongings perfectly, keep your hands clean, or meticulously plan out your weekend, you have OCD. In fact, obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a significant psychiatric problem that is widely misunderstood by society. Popular culture and misinformation have confused the facts concerning OCD. People love to claim that they're "acting OCD" despite having no true understanding of the illness or what causes it. 

TV character Monk, for example, uses his apparent OCD as a superpower that allows him to solve crimes, see things other people can't, and access a higher level of consciousness. Needless to say, these misconceptions do not represent OCD accurately. Making OCD into a joke or a superpower can undermine the actual experiences of those who suffer from it. That's why we're busting some of the most frequent OCD myths.


Myth: OCD is linked with repeated or ritualistic behaviour.

Fact: OCD involves two components: intrusive thoughts, ideas, or urges, known as obsessions, and behavioural compulsions that people participate in to ease the discomfort caused by the obsessions. Excessive hand washing or checking things repeatedly, which are commonly associated with OCD, may be examples of obsessive or compulsive behaviours that many of us experience from time to time but the actual disorder can be highly debilitating. People with OCD have little or no control over their obsessive thoughts and compulsive activities, which are time consuming and can cause severe distress at work, school, or in social situations.This set of diagnostic criteria distinguishes people with OCD from others who are simply more fastidious or hygiene-conscious than usual.


Myth: Excessive hand washing and cleaning is the primary characteristic of OCD.

Fact: Yes, persons with OCD often have a fixation with order and cleanliness, but there can be so much more to it. People may be concerned about loved ones dying, obsess about symmetry and precision, dread contamination, or be afraid of specific numbers, colours, or words. People with OCD respond to compulsions in a variety of ways, which can vary greatly from one individual to another. People with OCD may hoard items, double-check that they haven't forgotten something, repeat routines (such as going in and out of a door), arrange things in the 'correct' order, or count, tap, or touch objects.For example, they can be concerned that if they don't arrange things in a certain manner, someone in their family would become ill, or that if they touch certain things, they will acquire an illness.


Myth: People with OCD are unaware that they are acting irrationally.

Fact: Most people with OCD are well aware of the connection between their obsessions and compulsions. One of the most frustrating aspects of OCD is the inability to avoid these thoughts and activities despite their irrationality. OCD sufferers reported that they felt crazy because they have anxiety based on unreasonable thoughts and struggle to control their reactions.


Myth: People with OCD are easily identifiable.

Fact: Compulsions are not really obvious. Mental compulsions are actions carried out in one's thoughts. Praying, counting, repeating a phrase, or avoiding specific ideas are some examples. Someone who appears to be distracted to others may be preoccupied with mental compulsions. Others may not notice a person's compulsions, even if they are physical. OCD sufferers are usually embarrassed about their symptoms. Even if the delay causes significant anxiety, they may avoid performing compulsions in public.


Myth: OCD is caused by bad parenting.

Fact: OCD, like most mental disorders, is a complicated diagnosis with numerous possible origins. According to research, OCD has a major hereditary component. If a person has an OCD parent or sibling, they are twice as likely to develop OCD. Obsessions and compulsions can be exacerbated by environmental variables such as trauma. OCD is not caused by typical parenting, even if it is faulty. Obsessions and compulsions are not caused by using childcare services or moderate discipline. Parents should not hold themselves responsible for their child's OCD. OCD is not caused by regular parenting, but it may be caused by abuse. OCD is more likely to be diagnosed in people who have experienced trauma or neglect. When treating OCD, therapists may inquire about a person's abuse history. When a child with OCD lives in an abusive family, treatment may require the child's removal from the house.


Myth: OCD can be confirmed with tests.

Fact: Obsessive compulsive disorder cannot be diagnosed with a blood test or a scan, unlike cancer or diabetes. Your doctor is likely to perform a physical examination and request tests to rule out other medical issues. If mental health specialists suspect you have OCD, they will likely ask you a series of questions and search for three indicators of the disorder: obsessions, compulsive behaviours, and whether or not they interfere with your daily activities. 

So, exactly what causes OCD? Frustratingly, we don't really know. We do, however, have some important hints. OCD is classified as a neurological condition. In other words, research reveals that the brains of OCD patients are built to react in a certain way.  According to research, three brain regions have been linked to social behaviour and complex cognitive planning, voluntary movement, and emotional and motivational reactions. The other half of the puzzle is that OCD is linked to low serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate key activities including mood, aggression, impulse control, sleep, appetite, body temperature, and pain by communicating between brain areas. 

There are effective treatments for OCD, including medications that increase serotonin in the brain by limiting its reabsorption by brain cells, behavioural therapy that gradually desensitises patients to their anxieties, and, in some cases, electroconvulsive therapy, or surgery, if other treatments fail.


What can you do to help?

One of the most significant issues that people with OCD encounter is stigma, although many people are unaware that their words or actions stigmatise or trivialise the suffering of people with OCD. When you hear someone remark something as "so OCD," start a conversation with them about what OCD truly means and why what they're saying is dismissive and wrong.

Become familiar with OCD and attempt to raise awareness in your community in whatever way you feel comfortable.

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